Depth Perception: The importance of depth in baseball
Last season was a magical one for the Cardinals but it would never have happened without the depth of the team. When key players like David Freese, Adam Wainwright, and Matt Holliday went down players like Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, and Kyle McClellan stepped up and filled in the void of the stars. It is safe to say that without the depth of the 2011 Cardinals they would not have even reached the post season. The same is true for this team and every team in baseball.
Already this season we have seen four players on the DL and two are listed as day to day. Chris Carpenter last years Ace, Allen Craig the power hitting utility man, Skip Schumaker the slap hitting utility man, and middle reliever Scott Linebrink have all gone down. David Freese arguably the hottest player on the team has now missed two games with a finger injury and Lance Berkman last years Cardinal MVP has missed 4 games with a calf strain. But already we have seen some players come in and step up, showing the true threat of the Cardinals.
Here is a look at some of the players I am talking about:
“Sugar Shane” won the back up outfielders spot in spring training and since then he has taken off. He is batting .380with one homer and 5 RBI’s in just 13 at bats. He has played solid defense, he has hustled, and has shown that he can play the game right. With the outfield a big question mark in health with Craig and Schumaker already out, it is nice to see Robinson step up and play the game right. Keep this in mind, he has one more homer than Albert Pujols this season!
Maybe one of my favorite players on this team, Lil Carpenter worked hard in the off season with hitting coach Mark McGwire to change his approach and start driving the ball. Instead of batting for a high average on bloop hits, he is now hitting with power, drilling the ball, and still keeping that high average. He has now played four games at first for Berkman and one at third for Freese making his role on the team a very important one. With the way he has been playing the absence of Berkman’s bat hasn’t really been seen. Carpenter is batting .409 with a homer, 2 doubles, 2 triples, and 10 RBI he has also has scored 4 runs. Carpenter has also played really solid defense at first and third, it is safe to say that Carpenter belongs on this club. His days in Triple A may be over with for good.
Boggs had an up and down season last year, literally. He spent time setting up, closing, and after blowing one save was banished to the minors where TLR wanted him to stretch out as a starter. But with TLR and Duncan gone, Boggs has been able to breathe a bit and step up in the bullpen. With a new goatee and a new attitude, Boggs has really began looking like he could be a solid set up guy. In 4 games (6.1 innings) Boggs has one earned run, 7 strikeouts, NO WALKS, and has held opponents to a .143 AVG. If he keeps it up, the back end of this bullpen should be really fun to watch.
The most important piece of the puzzle so far. When Chris Carpenter went down in Spring training, the Cardinals turned to the young Lynn to take his spot in the rotation. Lynn who was a starter in the minors, was called up last season to take a bullpen role where he excelled even in the postseason. I have always been a fan of Lynn’s as I have publicly admitted time and time again, so I was very excited for him to get the chance to start even though this is not the preferred way I would want it to happen. After a strong spring, Lynn really showed that he deserved it and so far he has shown he is indeed ready for the rotation. In two starts (12 innings pitched) Lynn (2-0) has a 1.50 ERA, 13 strikeouts (leads the team), only 3 walks, and he has held the opposing batters to a .143 average. If Lynn can keep it up, the absence of Carpenter won’t be as important and Carpenter won’t need to be rushed back.
Depth is one of the most crucial parts of any winning team. Without it, you tend to struggle. It is not all about star players and home runs, it is about a team and a good balance of talent. The Cardinals have been a good depth team in recent seasons and it has proven that it can win Championships. With an aging team that is always at risk of injury to key guys, depth is crucial. That is why I believe the 2012 Cardinals can defend their title and win it all again.